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No. 2 Virginia women’s soccer takes down No. 17 Notre Dame in a tight ACC matchup

The Cavaliers scored twice in the last 10 minutes to defeat the Fighting Irish

In the end, Virginia walked away with a 2-1 victory, moving the team up to second in the ACC standings.
In the end, Virginia walked away with a 2-1 victory, moving the team up to second in the ACC standings.

In front of a packed Klöckner Stadium on a perfect October afternoon, the Virginia women’s soccer team challenged conference foe Notre Dame in a pivotal late-season ACC matchup. The Cavaliers (13-1-1, 6-0-1 ACC) and the Fighting Irish (12-2-1, 6-1 ACC) competed for 82 scoreless minutes before Virginia struck first and never looked back as it defeated Notre Dame 2-1. 

The Cavaliers controlled possession in the first half while living on the Fighting Irish’s side of the field. Virginia outshot Notre Dame 9-3 in the first half, keeping sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Naylor on her toes. 

With 34 minutes left in the first half, the Cavaliers had their first opportunity to score. The ball was kicked in the box as junior forward Diana Ordoñez found the ball with her head, but it narrowly missed the crossbar and sailed over the goal. 

The rest of the first half was dominated by Virginia. However, the team struggled to find the back of the net, even with all of the scoring opportunities. Graduate forward Haley Hopkins closed out the first half with a fantastic shot on goal that was gathered well by Naylor.

The Fighting Irish came out of halftime more poised than they were in the first half. They began to pressure the Cavaliers' defense as they had eight shots in the second half, but Virginia did not let up.

After 37 minutes of back and forth action in the second half, Notre Dame turned the ball over which led to Ordoñez and sophomore midfielder Lia Godfrey moving the ball down the field on the counter attack. Eventually the ball found senior forward Alexa Spaanstra, who beat Naylor to find the back of the net, giving the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead. 

Less than a minute later, Spaanstra found Hopkins, who struck the ball past Naylor giving the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead with eight minutes remaining. 

“We could really hear the crowd towards the end of [the game] with some chants and we knew once we got one goal that we would be able to break them again,” Spaanstra said. 

The Fighting Irish would respond only two minutes later, as freshman midfielder Korbin Albert beat graduate goalkeeper Laurel Ivory from a long way out to make the score 2-1.

The Cavaliers controlled possession for the last five minutes of the match — ensuring that Notre Dame would not get another opportunity to tie the game. In the end, Virginia walked away with a 2-1 victory, moving the team up to second in the ACC standings.

Sunday also marked the program's first ever Pride Game, which aimed to build awareness for inclusivity and to harness a supportive community. 

The Student Athlete Advisory Committee, along with its new subcommittee, the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice group, want to focus on “starting conversations, bringing awareness and creating a more inclusive community for everyone” through programs and activities such as today’s Pride game. 

Hopkins was excited that the women’s soccer team was the first Virginia Athletics program to host a Pride game and hopes that “it will pass down to other teams as well.” 

This was the Cavaliers’ third straight win as they are gaining momentum towards the end of the regular season — climbing up the ACC standings after today's win. Three crucial ACC matchups remain as Virginia hopes to finish the season on the right foot headed into tournament time. 

The next time the Cavaliers take the pitch will be Thursday at 7 p.m. in the friendly confines of Klöckner Stadium as they take on Louisville. The game will be broadcast on ACCNX.